SparkNotes Blog

The Biggest Facepalms When You’re a Fanfic Writer

At long last, the moment’s here. You’ve gotten your title, your rating, your genre all entered. You’re finally clicking “submit” on a fanfic into which you’ve poured every last one of your feels. It’s time to sit back, relax, and watch the kudos roll in.

That is, until you nervously click back in for a brief re-read, and realize that you’ve totally…

Switched tenses.
In the rush to get your initial ideas on paper (or screen), you wrote your first draft in present tense. There’s something about it that just keeps the flow going, especially in fan fiction. But after thinking about it (read: scrolling Tumblr for five hours in celebration of accomplishing writing a whole chapter), present tense didn’t quite fit. You decided to just revert to past tense. Ta-da! Then you find it: the entire section with those present-tense verbs. No. Nooo!

Had one character use a ship name for other characters.
Oh my god it was one time and besides it’s not your fault that the one super-meta episode actually called out the ship names and so obviously it was on your mind while you were writing this story in the week following the episode oh geez where the wiggity is that edit button?

Switched perspectives.
Second person definitely has its moments–unless you’re Nick from Fangirl, in which case, put down your pretentious prose and step away from the notebook! But in fanfic, second person can be immediate and intimate, getting you right up into a character’s headspace. That is, until you decide nah, this whole story feels way too Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-y. You revert to third person in a mad scramble, only to miss some very choice lines. The horror!

Left notes to yourself in the fic.
You ever get so fed up with a scene or a bit of dialogue that you just decide to come back to it later? Perhaps you mark your place with a very specific phrase like, [STUFF], [THINGS], or perhaps even [INTENSE GAZING]. Forgetting those markers exist mean you can’t just fix the scene by erasing the note. It means scrambling to finish a scene you didn’t even want to write in the first place. Ack! This is why it’s handy to find a beta reader. They ask the important questions, like, “Was [THINGS] supposed to finish that witty banter, or did you want your readers to tilt their head sideways and go, hzzuhh?”

Lost track of your pronouns.
It’s no secret that a great many popular ships contain pairings of the same gender. Which makes it particularly tough to write any interaction with them, especially during, shall we say, longer scenes, where you can’t just repeat their names every time you refer to one of them. “He inched closer to him, and he laced his fingers with his” is total pronoun madness. Even worse is when you find yourself falling back on clunky phrases like “the older woman” or “the taller man” just to get in some basic differentiation.

Misremembered something you wrote as canon.
Those early seasons were a long time ago. Or maybe that movie isn’t even out yet. Or you can’t find your copy of that book, dangit. Either way, the doubt creeps in as you stare at dialogue you thought you lifted directly from the source. Turn out it’s not only not canon, it’s wishful thinking. It’s lifted from one of your scenes, from one of your stories. Surely… surely nobody will notice, right? I mean, everybody wants that to be canon anyway. Right? Right?

Hey, at the very least, at least you know you’re not alone.

What are some of your biggest fanfic facepalms?